In both the Gospel and the First reading we are urged that our prayers to God should be persistent. Far from being bothered or annoyed God desires us to communicate with Him – always. Jesus urges us to be persistent. Why? To be fully human we need to be immersed in God, and the way to do this is to live a life of prayer. Prayer forms us in the way of God; trains us, as his Holiness Benedict XVI writes, in the inner attitude of Jesus. If we can ‘live a life of prayer’ ultimately we live our life with a silent presence of God as our companion – this is what is meant by ‘prayer without ceasing’. And we know, deep down, that we need this constant communion of prayer.
However, knowing and doing are two different things; God knows us, He knows that we need to grow in this persistent prayer – it doesn’t come easy to us. In the Gospel we see the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. They have been witnessing the greatness of the Lord first hand, but they are still in need of a closer relationship with God. And in answer Jesus turns and teaches them how to pray by giving them the ‘Our Father’. Now we notice that in this Gospel of St. Luke we see a shorter version being given to us, the familiar version is from the Gospel of St. Matthew, which is fuller – that there is a difference can be attributed to many reasons, most likely different occasions. A prayer that orders our thoughts in the right priority: we acknowledge God in His rightful relationship with us and then we ask for help in keeping our faith in Him. This prayer, directly given to us by God Himself, Christ, is all we can ask for – God’s words that He desires to hear from us. Along with the Psalms, and even more intimate, we have been given God’s own words in the ‘Our Father’ with which to pray – we need to delve deeply into this prayer there is so much that we could meditate on. St Therese, the little flower, said that she could spend days just on the just the first two words ‘Our Father…’ and she is right – what joy there is in them.
But today I want to focus on third petition in the ‘Our Father’. It strikes me that maybe our longing to be in heaven sometimes blinds us to the meaning behind ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven’. We have already acknowledged that we view God as ‘hallowed’, the most precious thing we can think of – He is sacred, revered. Now with this petition we are acknowledging that where God’s will is done His kingdom is there. But this line isn’t some hopeful waiting for the Kingdom to appear. This phrase, ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven’ isn’t some declaration of a by-stander urging God to act. We are acknowledging that where man is doing God’s will there is heaven, because where Man is doing God’s will man, through Christ, is one with the Father who is hallowed. By doing God’s will, by living the faith, by living love, we are one with God. St. Paul’s words from his letter to the Galatians: ‘…I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me’ is made manifest, and joy and peace overflow. And by these words ‘Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ we also acknowledge the opposite – where Man is doing only his own will – God is absent – and all we need to do is look around us to see where that takes us and how that makes us feel.
But maybe the most important aspect of this acknowledgment is the obligation for us to put into action what it proclaims. We must make known to those around us, by living God’s will, that His kingdom is real, tangible and the true way. By our adherence to His will through living the 10 commandments, the beatitudes, the greatest commandment and all of His teachings, in short by radiating love, we bring Him and His kingdom to earth. This third petition is as much an acknowledgment as it is a work order for each of us.
So I ask myself and you – what is our attitude about the ‘Our Father’, is it a rote prayer that we just say; words we pay lip-service to; or is it a desire?
Do we desire that God is ‘hallowed’ in our minds and hearts?
Do we desire that God’s kingdom should be visible and lived by those around us?
Do we desire that we want to be an instrument to help bring His will to earth?
These not only should be desires of ours but they should be our primary desires. In everything we do, everything we say we should desire that God is instrumental. As the ‘Our Father’ is ordered with acknowledging God first and then our requesting that He help us in living that acknowledgment, everything we do should start with this same right ordering.
There is a beautiful prayer that is included in the Liturgy of the Hours – but is also known and prayed by many. It is a beautiful example of desiring that all we do is correctly ordered and that we can be part of this third petition: ‘Thy Kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. It gets to heart of the words:
Father, may everything we do
begin with your inspiration,
and continue with your saving help.
Let our work always find its origin in you,
and through you reach completion.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. AMEN